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CANNES 2002

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From France with scandal

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- Sex, violence, madness: in French film's selection there is everything necessary to shock the critics and the audience

From France with scandal

If his intention was to cause controversy, Gaspar Noè hit his mark: his Irreversibile is among the most talked-about French films of this Cannes 2002. Here , just like back in 1998, when this Argentine director debuted on the Croisette with Seul contre tous, a blood-red mural that portrays the madness of a crazed butcher. «Unjudged violence» and «ideological ambiguity» were the charges back then. And today Noè promises: more transgressions. This is the story of a rape and revenge that touch the heights of such violence as to provoke disgust in the viewer: «I make films that deal with the agony of existence, of suffering, and of all the dark facets of the human condition,» explains Noè, who chose the most glamourous couple possible from the French jet set for Irreversible, Vincent Cassel and Monica Bellucci, who are partners in life as well as on the screen. The beauty of this Italian actress disturbs us and Cassel´s violent and nervous face worries us. (Cassel obtained success with L´odio by Mathieu, but we´ve seen him more recently in Birthday Girl, and he is now on the set of Blueberry by Jan Kounen). Their careers were on a collision course with the most transgressive director of times. Irréversible was produced by Eskwad and Nord Ouest Production.
There are another three films officially competing: L´adversaire by Nicole Garcia, Marie-Jo et ses deux amours by Robert Guédiguian, and Demonlover by Olivier Assayas.
And there is much anticipation for the interesting work by award-winning film-maker and actress Nicole Garcia, whose Adversaire was inspired by the novel of the same name by Emmanuel Carrère. This is yet another story of death and violence: crazed with pain, a man murders his entire family: wife, children, and parents. Then, he manages to survive for more than twenty years amidst his lies. The director respects all of the main themes of her own poetics, which are born of her theatrical experiences, and continues to explore the interiority of her characters: she did it by outlining the figure of Catherine Deneuve in Le fils préféré, and now allows Daniel Auteuil to burst onto the scene as the emblem of all men who have reached the decisive crossroads of life in the leading role of L´adversaire.
Demonlover, the film that Olivier Assayas is presenting in Croisette, has already been defined as a hi-tech thriller. The film is set in Paris, Japan, and the United States, and the plot revolves around the cyber universe of 3D porn where a woman becomes a spy in the competition between multinational colossuses. It was an expensive film (7.32 million euros) customized for an exceptional female cast: together with Connie Nielsen (The Gladiator and Ghosts of Mars), Chloe Sevigny (the magical muse of American independent film makers), and Gina Gershon (Showgirls). For Assayas it was a challenge: «a violent and perturbing film on different levels,» he says, «very unusual for the French cinema of today. There are explicit sexual images and other elements that caused me several problems with censors in the United States.» Demonlover has some things in common with his previous creation, Irma Vep, which was also based on an international concept of cinema and, according to the Cahiers school of cinema, was written in an experimental fashion.
Next comes La ville est tranquille and A l´àttaque (proclaimed by British critics to be the best film of this past season). Robert Guédiguian has changed genre and moved on to romantic melodrama: the film selected for Cannes this year is called Marie-Jo e se deux amours. For this director from Marseille, who has always been involved in the problems of the proletariat and other social discriminations, the move to melodrama was like accepting a challenge together with his life companion, who also stars in the film, the actress Ariane Ascaride. This is the story of a woman who lives the anguish of having to decide between her love for two men. The setting is Marseille and all of its urban dilemmas. The form changes, but this French film maker is still the same. As Guédiguian repeats, «I don´t think that one genre is better than another. I believe that comedy is as important as tragedy. In France it is undervalued and I want to prove it.»
The Israeli-French production by the Palestinian Elia Suleiman is entitled Intervention Divine. It seems that this film is destined to become a political manifesto. It is, in fact, a love story between the two most turbulent lands of our times: Ram Allah and Jerusalem. This sophisticated director lived for years in New York and provoked much discussion last year as well, with his Cyber Palestine, about his search for a Palestinian identity.
There is also a Belgian film by the Dardenne brothers, Luc and Jean, entitled Le fils. Following their Golden Palm for Rosetta, the Dardennes once again portray their native land in southern, French-speaking Belgium, rich in contradictions, poverty, and cultural disintegration. Because the cinema, as the two Belgian film makers reiterate, always serves the same social function.

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